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Byron Shire
May 16, 2021

Mayor: change your plans for Schoolies

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At a press conference in Byron Bay this morning Byron Shire Mayor Simon Richardson, Detective Acting Superintendent Cameron Lindsay, Tweed/Byron Police District and Chief Executive Northern NSW Local Health District Wayne Jones, made an announcement about the upcoming Schoolies week in the town.

The trio spoke to the community from Apex Park asking school leavers who were planning to come to Byron Bay for their Schoolies celebration to postpone their plans.

Mayor Richardson said that at any other time the town would be preparing to welcome school leavers but these are extraordinary times. ‘Our message is that the beaches and the town will still be here when this COVID pandemic is over and we will welcome you then, with open arms.’

Mayor Richardson has asked teenagers to change their travel plans because COVID-19 will mean strict and severe restrictions on any sort of social gathering.

A very different experience in 2020

‘School leavers and their parents should know that anyone planning a trip to the Byron Shire for what would normally be Schoolies celebrations can expect a very different experience this year.’

Currently there are strict controls for people patronising hotels, there are no night clubs operating, and no large public gatherings and it’s expected these rules and restrictions on social gathering will still be in place in NSW in November and December this year.

‘Anyone coming to Byron Shire during Schoolies Week, or any time, is required to abide by all of the NSW Health orders including no gathering in groups larger than 20 people in public and private places,’ said Mayor Richardson.

‘With nightclubs closed, no dancing and hotels strictly enforcing COVID-19 protocols, our main health and safety concern is of house parties getting out of control in residential neighbourhoods through unmanaged holiday letting bookings.

A turn around from two weeks ago

It would appear Mayor Richardson has only recently changed his mind on the subject of schoolies. He was quoted in an article by Natassia Chrysanthos in the Sydney Morning Herald online on 28 August.

In her article Ms Chrysanthos said that Cr Richardson was still welcoming students to Byron, to rent accommodation with their friends and enjoy the beach and nightlife.

‘But it’s not business as usual, with large groups of friends partying together [or] great congregation in large groups up at the beach.’

We need the help of the NSW Premier

Now, the Mayor is calling on help from the state. ‘Council and local police cannot manage this alone – we need the help of the NSW Premier,’ said Mayor Richardson.

To protect the health and safety of residents in northern NSW, Byron Shire Council is requesting Premier Berejiklian treat holiday letting the same as other types of tourist accommodation and make it mandatory for each to have a COVID -19 Safety Plan with the same strict visitor and guest rules as hotels and hostels.

‘Anyone visiting our Shire is expected to respect our community,’ said Mayor Richardson. ‘We ask everyone to do their bit to keep us COVID safe. The ramifications for the entire state are potentially enormous should there be just one case of COVID-19 in our area as a result of uncontrolled house parties.’

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  1. Why do we want to continue to welcome schoolies ? Isn’t this time to re evaluate this with the current situation?
    Once again our Mayor misses the opportunity to steer our tourism down a path that sits harmoniously with nature and our unique selling point biodiversity, culture, artisan entrepreneurs making local four products and clothing.
    Given the state main beach the central throng for schoolies it is insane Simon Richardson ever contemplated it.
    Daily locals sigh with they witness fire remains in beaches, dogs, glass and campervan’s kitchen sink remains left in carparks.
    There are great schoolies but that’s not the point. They are not really here to support the farmers or artisans or drive to visit our natural attractions. Generally it’s about drinking, congregating in groups which inevitable get noisy and swimming. The exposed rocks at Main Beach and trees falling and closed dune paths along with glass that is being revealed now that sand is gone is providing g lifesavers with enough to do without Queensland tourism and Schoolies.
    Our Council and stakeholders need to use this time wisely to put in place management strategies that protect people and place.
    We haven’t even started to mention hotter conditions and fires.
    The change in plan is just words what is needed is a commitment to change and an acknowledgment of the stress schoolies puts on our community. The demand is there from others wanting to come to stay and support our local businesses.

  2. I do agree, Alison. As a retired high school teacher I have a great affection for teenagers and don’t wish to spoil their fun, but the three weeks of schoolies‘ celebrations (across the different states) can be a curse for local businesses and residents.

    Schoolies provide a bit of a boon for STHLs, pubs, bottle shops and supermarkets. Many other retail and hospitality businesses though will say that things go dead as the normal mix of visitors give the town a wide berth. And this is just as the weather is warming and visitor numbers are otherwise increasing. If you live in a street where they are partying it’s perhaps best to move out for a while.


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